Construction, Economic Development, and Real Estate

Newsmaker: 616 Development makes lasting mark on downtown

January 7, 2013
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616 expands its urban community
The 616 Lofts on Ionia include 20 loft apartments in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids beside Van Andel Arena. Courtesy 616 Development

Editor’s note: The Business Journal is recognizing 10 nominees for its 2012 Newsmaker of the Year Award, based on their long-term economic impact on the region. One nominee will be featured each day on grbj.com — leading up to the Jan. 21 announcement of the 2012 Grand Rapids Business Journal Newsmaker of the Year.

In 2012, 616 Development, and its property management arm, 616 Lofts, stepped into the downtown renovation limelight and clearly positioned itself as a prominent positive force for the district’s future.

By doing so, 616 joined such established players as CWD Real Estate Investment, Locus Development and others in helping to make downtown more than a place to do business, while taking on that mission in a less than stellar economic year that was filled with uncertainties for many in the larger corporate world.

The singular 616 goal is to move downtown forward as a community where people live, work and play together, and the firm pushed that objective toward reality last year by investing about $11.5 million in two revitalization projects for three vacant downtown structures. One renovation was completed in late November, while the other is underway. But construction for construction’s sake isn’t the firm’s primary motive.

“People remain the most important aspect of our business: from nurturing the people who belong to our own 616 tribe to connecting our 616 Lofts residents to our great urban living experience, to showing our appreciation to all the business partners and city officials who have made it possible for our projects to have forward motion,” said Derek Coppess, 616 founder and principal.

“My remaining goal and job coming into a property just after construction is to make sure that we follow through with everything we said we were going to do,” said Monica Clark, who heads 616 Lofts.

Those promises were kept for the 21 tenants who recently moved into the top three floors of 1 Ionia Ave. SW, which was the result of the $7 million restoration of two adjacent structures at the southwest corner of Ionia and Fulton Street. Those tenants brought the firm’s downtown family to 150.

Coppess saw the project as a 24-hour building, and he kept the clock ticking by landing the new Grand Rapids Brewing Co. for the structure’s ground floor traffic generator.

On top of that accomplishment, 616 put about $4.5 million into renovating the Kendall Building. It, too, is another 24-hour project the firm wants to add to its growing community with residences, retail and a new second-floor home for itself. The decaying structure at 16 Monroe Center has sat idle for decades and has generally been described as a glaring, 132-year-old eyesore in a rejuvenated district.

But Coppess didn’t see an eyesore. He saw an opportunity to salvage and improve a historic structure that is firmly rooted in downtown’s history that will soon come alive and become a contributing element to the district’s future.

“To restore something that is that old, to me, is a great feature to have. And with what they’re going to put into it money wise, to me, it’s an expensive project, and that’s probably why a lot of people walked away. (Other developers) didn’t want to deal with it,” said Jeff Reynolds, owner of Reynolds and Sons Sporting Goods, which is located next door to the Kendall Building at 12 Monroe Center.

The Downtown Alliance recognized 616’s efforts last November, when the organization that markets and promotes the district’s businesses named Coppess as its Emerging Entrepreneur for 2012.

“We want to focus attention on the growth and investment that continues to occur in the Central Business District,” said Ray Kisor, chairman of the Downtown Awards Committee, on the day Coppess was honored. “Individuals and businesses are making a choice to invest in downtown Grand Rapids, and we believe that their confidence and their accomplishments need to be recognized.”

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